Presentation Title

Counting Squirrels: Squirrel Behavior in an Urban Area During High or Low Human Foot Traffic

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Peter Nonacs

Start Date

23-11-2019 8:00 AM

End Date

23-11-2019 8:45 AM

Location

81

Session

poster 1

Type of Presentation

Poster

Subject Area

biological_agricultural_sciences

Abstract

One of the most successful mammals in the United States is the squirrel. Despite human encroachment, destruction of its habitat, and subsequent urban development, most squirrel populations have managed to survive and thrive. This project counts and compares the number of Eastern Fox Squirrels (Sciurus niger) present on the ground with the number of humans traversing in various locations at Santa Monica College, an urban community college campus in Southern California. Counts of squirrels and humans were recorded every five minutes over a two hour period at three different times of day (i.e. morning, afternoon, and evening) for three weeks. I predicted that during times with higher human foot traffic squirrels would be less active on the ground than during times of lower human foot traffic. Further, I predicted that in study locations with generally lower human traffic more squirrels would be present. Results of this work demonstrated that the location and day of the week significantly predicted the level of human traffic observed in an area [F(2,672)=250.5., p <2e-16; F(2,672)=7.938., p = 0.000392]. However, the number of squirrels seen was not predicted by the number of humans counted [F(2,672)=0.167., p = 0.847]. I interpret this finding as an indication that all levels of human traffic observed in this study were too high for squirrel ground activity as throughout my observations only 4 squirrel sightings occurred. Future work should focus on observation times with extremely low human traffic such as dawn and dusk and weekends. Gaining a better understanding of how animals thriving within urbanized environments are modifying their behavior, such as, the timing of their daily foraging activity in order to avoid humans may help us to better understand those species that are struggling to do so and potentially create more informed management plans to protect these populations.

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Nov 23rd, 8:00 AM Nov 23rd, 8:45 AM

Counting Squirrels: Squirrel Behavior in an Urban Area During High or Low Human Foot Traffic

81

One of the most successful mammals in the United States is the squirrel. Despite human encroachment, destruction of its habitat, and subsequent urban development, most squirrel populations have managed to survive and thrive. This project counts and compares the number of Eastern Fox Squirrels (Sciurus niger) present on the ground with the number of humans traversing in various locations at Santa Monica College, an urban community college campus in Southern California. Counts of squirrels and humans were recorded every five minutes over a two hour period at three different times of day (i.e. morning, afternoon, and evening) for three weeks. I predicted that during times with higher human foot traffic squirrels would be less active on the ground than during times of lower human foot traffic. Further, I predicted that in study locations with generally lower human traffic more squirrels would be present. Results of this work demonstrated that the location and day of the week significantly predicted the level of human traffic observed in an area [F(2,672)=250.5., p <2e-16; F(2,672)=7.938., p = 0.000392]. However, the number of squirrels seen was not predicted by the number of humans counted [F(2,672)=0.167., p = 0.847]. I interpret this finding as an indication that all levels of human traffic observed in this study were too high for squirrel ground activity as throughout my observations only 4 squirrel sightings occurred. Future work should focus on observation times with extremely low human traffic such as dawn and dusk and weekends. Gaining a better understanding of how animals thriving within urbanized environments are modifying their behavior, such as, the timing of their daily foraging activity in order to avoid humans may help us to better understand those species that are struggling to do so and potentially create more informed management plans to protect these populations.